The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    Vandals, I Don't Get You. Can We Talk?


    noun: vandal; plural noun: vandals
    1. 1.
      a person who deliberately destroys or damages public or private property.
      "the rear window of the car was smashed by vandals"
      synonyms:hoodlum, barbarian, thug, hooligan, delinquent, despoiler, desecrator, saboteur
      "vandals defaced the front steps of the church"
    2. 2.
      a member of a Germanic people that ravaged Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries and sacked Rome in AD 455.


    When I was around seven years old I wandered over to our neighbor's roadside mailbox and stole the mail out of it.  There was a vacant lot between their house and ours and I remember sitting in the weeds opening that mail. (The mail that, at seven, I doubt I could even read) Then I got scared.  I tore it all up into little pieces.  I got caught--I don't remember how--and my mother marched me over to our neighbors, where I had to apologize for stealing their mail and tearing it up.

    What I learned through my tears was that one piece of that mail--the pretty one with the red and blue stripes around the edges--was a long-awaited letter from their soldier son who was fighting in the war overseas.   That was seven decades ago and I still cringe at the memory.  They were sweet people, those neighbors, and they were kind enough to accept my apology, but I've never forgotten how I felt when I had to admit, to them, to my mother, and to myself, that I did a terrible thing.  What was I thinking?  What would make me steal and then destroy something that didn't belong to me?  I didn't do it to deliberately hurt our neighbors but the end result was that I did hurt them.

    But even though I was a vandal myself--no getting around it--I've never understood acts of vandalism.  I've heard all the excuses-- pent-up rage, drunkenness, group dynamics, an extreme sense of privilege--but every act of vandalism is a criminal act.  Deliberate, wanton destruction is a crime.  It's not cute, it's not cool, it's not ever justified, and it can't be considered anything less than what it is, just because the people who do it aren't your ordinary criminals. 

    So last week this happened:  University of Michigan frat members took over 45 rooms at a Michigan ski resort and over the course of a couple of days did more than $50,000 in damage:

    Treetops Resort manager Barry Owens said the students were escorted from the premises by Michigan State Police last weekend after causing $50,000 in damage. The resort is in Dover Township near Gaylord.
    Owens said Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity members caused significant damage to furniture, carpet, walls and ceilings.
    Sigma Alpha Mu Michigan chapter President Joshua Kaplan says his members "are embarrassed and ashamed of the behavior" of some members. He says the chapter "accepts full responsibility" and "will be working with the management of the resort to pay for all damages and cleaning costs."
    "This behavior is inconsistent with the values, policies, and practices of this organization," Kaplan said in a statement. "We will work within our own organization and with university officials to hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions.
    Kaplan said there will be no further comment from his chapter or organization.
    "They caused an excessive amount of damage," Owens said. "The rooms were just a pigsty. Unfortunately, I've been in this business for 30 years and it's the worst condition of rooms that I've ever seen. There were broken ceiling tiles in the hallway, broken furniture, broken windows. There's carpet that's going to need to be replaced."
    Owens said there were more than 120 people, men and women, in about 45 rooms.
    "A lot of the rooms were just very, very dirty," he said. "There were holes in the walls and different things like that. They were very disruptive to additional guests that were here."
    Owens said prior to the students being removed, resort staff attempted to rectify the situation.
    "We tried to address it with them, but we made a mistake and took these people at their word when they said they would change their behavior," he said.
    The resort is considering its options, including pursuing criminal charges against the fraternity. Owens said the resort also has a meeting planned with university officials.

    What about the criminal charges against the students? What happened after the Kids Just Want to Have Fun Gang were "escorted from the premises" by the State Police?  Were they fingerprinted and then thrown into as many cells as it took to fill?  Are they still there?

    I haven't heard, but you know they're not still in jail up there in Gaylord. Who are they?  Give me their names.  Let me talk to them.  Let them try to explain why they did what they did.  I want to know how they're feeling right now.  Not how they're feeling about getting caught or being blamed or about whether or not they'll still have a fraternity.  I want to know how they're feeling about themselves.

    (And whether, at some future date, they're going to be thinking about running for public office. . .)


    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices and elsewhere)


    I work as a caretaker ar a ghost town in Arizona. The only reason I have this job is due to vandals. The owners have no interest in making a profit and there is no profit. They just want to take in enough money from tourists to pay someone to live here to protect the historic buildings.

    Why are you liberals always attacking the job creators? Vandals are hard at work, using their creativity and ingenuity to create millions of jobs, or at least one. They need to be respected and supported. Do you want me to lose my job?

    I had no idea!  I feel bad now.  Think of all those resort workers who probably got overtime cleaning up that mess. 

    I should just shut up.

    Seriously though, I don't get it either. Its not only rowdy "kids." Just a year ago a group of boy scout leaders pushed over a 200 million year old rock formation in a Utah state park.  I could easily see some group of guys here, looking at a building wall that's starting to tilt over and saying, "I bet we can push it all the way over. Woo hoo!" There's so much about human behavior I just don't understand. Why some people find it fun to destroy is one of those puzzles.

    Your story as a child is easier to understand. You were likely intrigued by the pretty letter. You didn't have any intention to destroy. It was only after a fairly innocent attraction to something pretty that fear of punishment caused you to tear up the letters. If childhood culture wasn't so often predicated on unreasonable punishments for trivial mistakes there would be less fear and you may not have destroyed the letters. (laughs) Like a true liberal I find myself blaming society for your crime.

    You're giving me way too much credit,  Ocean-kat.  I had to open that mailbox first in order to notice that pretty letter, and tampering with mailboxes is a Federal offense!  

    Because my mom and dad were liberal pacifists, my only punishment was having to go and apologize, and afterwards, a good talking-to.  But apparently it was enough, because I remember almost everything about that day, even after all these years. Lol.

    But I agree that human behavior is a mystery.  I write "I don't get it" so often it's a wonder my computer doesn't just fill it in for me.

    The "vandals" were actually peaceful german tribe/people living east of the d Rhein and north of the  Danube ... think of the area around Stuttgurt.

    They were forced across the Rhein by invading hostiles from the north and east  ... Huns, Goths, Lombards and so forth. Once across Rhein, they were treated quite badly and abusively. They made their way to southern Spain where they learned how to made boats and crossed over to northern Africa.

    It was because of the way in which they were treated they exacted their revenge. While they were not a large enough force to tackle Roman legions, they were large enough to cause Rome some serious trouble. They trick the Roman fleet, stole their ships and sailed to Rome which was never had an army to protect it ... they never trusted any formidable leader with a few legions behind him.

    And from what I understand, they had a deal just to ransack and loot Rome, not destroy it or kill citizen unnecessarily.

    But the real story is everyone considered to be a barbarian was always treated badly by Rome and romans so everyone of them exacted revenge for the poor treatment they received. What's more, just about every barbarian was a mercenary group hired by Rome to do their dirty work and die for them instead of a roman.

    So equating university frat boys with vandals is disrespecting the vandals ... they had reasons for their actions.

    Interesting, BJ.  The word "vandal" seems to be here to stay and everyone knows what we mean by it.  It is a distinction and I'm sorry the real Vandals have been besmirched, but if all they did was ransack and loot, as you say, that may have been enough to award them such a moniker.

    Still, they sound like liberals, so if I wasn't so committed to my title I might have to rethink it.

    Always something. . .



    I'm going with "acts of vandalism" and I was involved in a couple of minor ones. I think many young people have done so, usually in groups and probably involving alcohol. We've done away with tribal rites of passage so maybe this kind of behavior lurks in the genes. Some of it is just dumb behavior.

    I was working in a youth program and the probation officers and cops would just sometimes have to laugh at how idiotic the behavior was. Two fourteen year olds stole a cop car and joy rid for a while. When they were found it was back at the station, with some damage, and they were sleeping in the back seat of the car. They had just gotten all out of wind and took a nap after they returned the car.

    Maybe those minor acts of vandalism are more a guy thing.  When my husband read this he said the same thing--that he had done his own share of petty vandalism.  When I asked him what he did he had a sudden lapse of memory and changed the subject.  Ha!

    The point is, the original "vandals" did were driven to action by the way in which Rome treated them. They pillaged and plundered Rome, taking what they wanted, leaving a mess in their wake as payment for the treatment they received from Rome and her citizens. They were courteous enough not to destroy the infrastructure and minimal harm to Rome's citizens.

    The frat boyz weren't driven to "vandalizing" ... the phrase "incorrigible adolescent" is more appropriate and questionable parentage as well.

    By the way, if you read up on the downfall of Rome, the current state of affairs with the US and the rest of the world looks as if history is repeating itself. Little bits of society is crumbing at the edges, both outside and inside as well. Soon, the sense of stability Americans cherish will dissipate and the barbarians will be everywhere, both foreigners as well as citizens.

    This is a serious blog but your post office incident just kills me.

    How many Federal and State Statutes had this seven year old felon committed?

    The look on your Mother's face must have been priceless!

    Worse yet when I tried to excuse her blatant criminal behavior she brags about being incorrigible. One has to wonder what other crimes this young miscreant went on to commit.

    I missed this!


    I hereby render unto Ocean the Dayly line of the Day Award for this here Dagblag site, given to all of him from all of me. hhahaahahah



    Thank God Almighty the statute of limitations has expired.


    Richard, I think I learned from my mom that day that tampering with the U.S mail was a federal offense.  I didn't know what a federal offense meant but I got from her attitude that it was really, really bad.  Lol.

    Looking at images of the amount of damage done including damage to the ceilings, my first reaction is that Black fraternity members would have been incarcerated immediately. There would have been no disappointment about regretting taking the fraternity members at their word and expecting a change in behavior.There would have been no discussion, just jail. The Black frat would not be escorted out, but would have been off to the lockup. This was willful destruction of property.

    I'm afraid you're right.  There was some privilege going on there and as near as I tell, it might have been tainted but it wasn't tinted.

    I am sorry.

    But all I can think is:


    But where? Where did the damned vandals take the handles? Norway? Italy? Or back to Vandal-land mebbe?

    And what did they use them for, these handles, once they had them? I like to think they went home and used them on the doors of their new saunas. 

    You know?

    So that each night, as they'd gather to relax and unwind with their friends, they'd see and feel the handles, and laugh together, remembering the good times, when they stole the handles from those idiots across the water.

    Okay now you show up twice.

    Okay, Okay, so now I am forced to swear on a Ramona blog?


    I was listening to old Hitchen's blogs or sites or videos or whatever....

    Chris wished to speak about his old Oxford days....hahahahah

    Now I never was asked to go to Oxford.

    But Clinton really was not into handle thingies unless a woman was involved.


    This is terrible, unless we were dealing with thingies outside of Ramona. hhahahahaha

    What in the hell are you doing?

    I cannot swear in a Ramona Blog. hahahahah

    I cannot find it right now but last week Bill Maher said that he was physically attacked by two guys  when he was a kid; they pummeled him.

    That is enough. look it up. hahahahah

    Enough to say, keep your hands off of the handles.


    See, I did not swear once.


    I cannot swear inside of a Ramona blog.


    By the by, I will quote you you sombitch. hahahah

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